The question of how the 40-acre Shipyards property should be redeveloped has been discussed for many years in Jacksonville. Should it be filled with high-end residential towers? Should it be a public park? Should it be an entertainment destination? Should it be some combination of these? A project with similar characteristics exists in New York City, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and should be seen as a great example of what could be at the Shipyards.
Much like Downtown Jacksonville’s Shipyards parcel, Brooklyn Bridge Park was previously a waterfront industrial site. At 85 acres, it is a little more than twice the size of the Shipyards.
While the city and state provided funding for the construction of the park, a memorandum of understanding between the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation and the City of New York mandated the park be economically self-sufficient and generate revenue to pay for ongoing maintenance and operations. This means, in addition to park concessions, private development is a part of the long-term strategy for Brooklyn Bridge Park. It should be noted development parcels are limited to 20 percent of total park area and are largely on the upland perimeter of the park, with the majority of the riverfront preserved for public uses.
The public spaces include a mixture of active and passive uses (i.e. ballfields vs. open space). Additionally, wetland areas along the riverfront were recreated, and traditional bulkhead walls replaced with riprap, which were important in mitigating effects of Hurricane Sandy last year. There is a small amphitheater built into a riverfront hillside as well as lawns, a carousel and event space. Public art is also an important component of the park and includes both permanent sculpture pieces and temporary art and photography exhibits along construction fences.
The result of this blending of public and private uses is a self-sustaining park that is truly a legacy piece for the citizens of New York City. Jacksonville’s leaders could learn from this exemplary model as redevelopment talks of Downtown’s Shipyards parcel move forward.